Buying new construction has decision making every step of the way…what floor plan to choose, what options, what trends will last and should I wait and upgrade that myself rather than paying the builder such a premium? From an appraisal perspective the viewpoint is a bit different: our job is to prove that the price of the newly constructed home is supported by the neighborhood and area. The largest hurdle in appraising a newly constructed property is when the dwelling is the smallest in the neighborhood with the most amount of upgrades. Typically there is an average amount of options the typical purchaser chooses within the dwelling (upgraded cabinets, flooring, sunroom, luxury master bathroom, etc.) and then there are the buyers that want ever bell, whistle and customization that the model home has and then some. Couple the vast amount (and large price tag) for all of these options and the fact it is within the smallest floor plan available….this is not a good combination. A property like this one runs the risk of being over improved for the neighborhood and has a good probability of having difficulty with the appraisal. The contract price needs to be supported by other homes of similar design and SIZE with the presence of upgrades: keep in mind that not all upgrades will give you a return on your investment. There is a ceiling to the amount of upgrades that the typical buyer will pay, diminishing returns is how we express that there will be a limited return on the additional improvement cost beyond what is typical. As the upgrades go beyond the typical amount the return on the added investment will continue to decline.
So, keep in mind, don’t over-customize. Of course, new home buyers want their homes to reflect their personal style and taste. But, it’s important to consider the resale value, as well. While it’s important to make your house satisfy your needs and tastes, just realize not all upgrades will give you a return on your investment.
Some features that are good investments are upgrades that will make your kitchen the star of the show. These upgrades include: large center islands with seating and storage, under counter lighting, backsplash, stainless steel appliances and granite countertops (though these have now become standard in many new kitchens). Another suggestion from an appraisal standpoint is you can never go wrong by adding square footage: it is more effective to pay the builder to make the home larger (bump outs, sun room or great room) while the property is being erected verses being remorseful at a later date wishing you had that extra square footage.
Industry experts suggest not putting your upgrade dollars toward these options: specialty driveways, high-end plumbing features and jetted soaking tubs. Cosmetic features in particular, such as paint, landscaping, lighting fixtures, epoxy garage flooring, crown molding, chair rails, window treatments and even certain appliance upgrades can often be made after the closing, particularly by homeowners who have a budget.
Remember that the model home you fell in love with may have thousands of dollars of options and that the base home may look very different. With so many upgrades and options available, it’s hard to stay focused on building your dream home. Stay on track to satisfy your needs and tastes but remember a lot of the upgrades can be added to your home after it is purchased. This delayed gratification could be good for your budget and your overall future return on your investment.